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Air operations, Commercial strategy

Understanding IATA’s SSIM Format: A Comprehensive Overview for Airlines

April 5, 2023

IATA SSIM is a standard format that airlines use to exchange flight schedule data with airports, GDSs and other stake holders.

Technology can bring the promise of efficiency, cost savings and improved services. In a networked system, like aviation, common data formats that are recognized across an industry are critical. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) Standard Schedules Information Manual (SSIM) format is one such format that enables airlines to easily access and work with global schedules data.

As Cirium is a leading provider of Schedules data, in this article we will take a comprehensive look at IATA SSIM format and how airlines use it. For Cirium customers, SSIM is the foundation for profitable routes, efficient networks and a great traveler experience.

What is the IATA SSIM Format? 

IATA SSIM is a standard format that airlines use to exchange flight schedules that enable itinerary creation, and other schedule-related functions with GDSs (global distribution systems) and other aviation stakeholders. The SSIM format includes structured data elements such as flight numbers, departure and arrival times, airport codes, aircraft types, and other information. These elements are defined in a specific order that forms a structural hierarchy. The SSIM format is flexible and can accommodate variations in flight schedules depending on flight frequency, days of operation, aircraft equipment, and seasonal variations.

How is the IATA SSIM Format Used?

SSIM is a critical cog in how airlines communicate and exchange data. Airlines use the SSIM format to exchange schedule and route data with GDSs and other stakeholders. GDSs use this data to sell airline tickets, update flight schedules, and manage airline inventory. The SSIM format is also used to update airport and air traffic control systems with the latest flight information.

Airline operations teams use the SSIM format to develop and manage flight schedules, monitor route performance, and analyze trends in the aviation industry.

In addition, airlines also use the SSIM format to share codeshare and interline agreements with other airlines.

Benefits of Using the IATA SSIM Format

The SSIM format offers several benefits to airlines, GDSs, and other stakeholders. First, it ensures standardized and consistent data across all airlines and systems, which reduces errors and increases automation. Secondly, it supports automated data synchronization between airlines and GDSs, which reduces the time and resources required for manual data entry. Finally, the SSIM format allows for faster and more accurate updates to flight schedules, which enhances reliability and improves customer satisfaction.

Challenges of Using the IATA SSIM Format


Despite its benefits, the SSIM format also poses some challenges for airlines. One of the biggest challenges is the high level of expertise required to develop and manage SSIM data. For example, it is a fixed-position (non-delimited) text file, harping back to mainframe days, with various record types, requiring special ETL tooling making it difficult to properly ingest and parse. Additionally for most analytics purposes, the SSIM is not turnkey, in that it uses summarization to reflect ranges of flight operations across time periods. And, there can be certain levels of data overlap within SSIM that may need to be deduplicated or otherwise interpreted properly for analytics. This can result in higher training and staffing costs for airlines. Finally, there is the need for frequent updates to the data due to changes in flight schedules or route changes, which can take longer than expected to implement.

Cirium is keenly aware of these challenges and has worked tirelessly with airlines around the globe to ingest, process, correct and normalize schedule data. Our team of experts support airlines and their stakeholders around the globe to help customers unlock the full potential of SSIM and schedule data more broadly.

Future of the IATA SSIM Format

The aviation industry is constantly evolving, and so is the SSIM format. IATA is constantly evaluating changes and enhancements of the SSIM format that will improve data structure and ensure better integration across airlines, GDS systems and other stakeholders. Future enhancements should hopefully offer greater flexibility and reduce the need for manual data entry. With the rise of automation and artificial intelligence in the aviation industry, the SSIM format is likely to become even more important in the years to come.

Overall, the SSIM format is a critical tool that airlines use to manage their flight schedules, exchange route data with GDSs, and ensure consistent and reliable service for their customers.

As the aviation industry continues to evolve, the SSIM format will play a critical role in facilitating automation, enhancing efficiency, and providing reliable service to millions of passengers worldwide. Cirium is committed to the industry and supporting our customers around the globe. Learn more about Cirium schedules data.

If you would like to learn more about Cirium SSIM, other schedule data options or how schedule data can be fused and enriched with Cirium broader data portfolio that powers the aviation industry, please schedule time with one of our experts.

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